las vegas - German journalist Svea Eckert and data scientist Andreas Dewes have managed to map the surf behavior of 3 million Germans in a relatively simple way. According to The Guardian, the two have managed to expose the porn preference of a judge and the drug use of a German politician.
According to Eckert, winning the data was kindergarten. The help of intelligence services or hackers was not necessary and the wallet was closed. The duo set up a fake marketing company and called dozens of other companies asking if they could get data for trying out new analytics software. The hardest found finding German data. Companies could and willingly handed out US and British information without too much trouble, but finding German surfing behavior proved to be more difficult. Once the so-called anonymous data was found, the duo started to analyze the information.
According to Eckert and Dewes, it was in most cases sufficient to find ten user-visited URLs to fully identify the user in question. For example, if a user clicks on a link, he will leave a url containing his username. In most cases it is already clear who it is about. Another method of identification is to side-by-side sites visited and the times they visited. Eventually, some users were able to click a month of browsing behavior for clicks to map.
Eckert and Dewes want to prove that it is virtually impossible to store data anonymously. For internet users it is therefore advisable to take texts like 'your information is anonymized stored for marketing purposes' with a grain of salt.